Why don't people like the poor



33rd Sunday of the year
17th November 2019


The hope of the poor is not lost forever


1. "The hope of the poor is not lost forever" (Ps 9.19). These psalm words are incredibly timely. They express a deep truth that faith can impress especially on the hearts of the poorest because it gives back hope that was lost in the face of injustice, suffering and the insecurity of life.

The psalmist describes the condition of the poor and the arrogance of those who oppress them (cf. 10: 1-10). He invokes God's judgment so that righteousness may be restored and injustice overcome (cf. 10: 14-15). It seems that his words recur the question that has arisen over the centuries until today: How can God allow this inequality? How can he allow the poor to be humiliated without stepping in to help them? Why does he allow those who oppress others to live happy lives when their behavior ought to be condemned, especially in the face of the suffering of the poor?

At the time this Psalm was written, Israel was in a state of great economic development, which, as is so often the case, also led to severe social imbalances. Inequality created a large group of the needy whose condition seemed even more dramatic in contrast to the wealth of the privileged few. The holy author who observes this situation paints a picture that is as realistic as it is believable.

It was a time when arrogant, ungodly people went after the poor in order to appropriate what little they had and to enslave them. It's not much different today. The economic crisis has not prevented many groups of people from enriching themselves, which appears all the more anomalous the more we become aware of the large numbers of poor people on the streets of our cities who lack the essentials and who are repeatedly harassed and exploited. The words of the Apocalypse come to mind: “You say: I am rich and wealthy and I am not lacking anything. But you do not know that you are miserable and pathetic, poor, blind and naked «(Rev. 3.17). Centuries pass, but the state of rich and poor remains unchanged, as if history had taught nothing. So the words of the Psalm do not concern the past but our present place before God's judgment.

2. Even today there are many new forms of slavery to which millions of men, women, young people and children are exposed.

We meet every day Familyswho are forced to leave their country to make a living elsewhere; Orphanswho have lost their parents or were forcibly separated from them for the purpose of brutal exploitation; young people looking for professional fulfillment who are denied access to the labor market due to short-sighted economic policies; Victim many types of injuries, from prostitution to drug addiction, humiliated at heart. How can we also get the millions of Migrants forget that are victims of so many hidden interests, which are often instrumentalized for political purposes and who are denied solidarity and equal treatment? And so are the many Homeless and outsiderwho roam the streets of our cities?

How often do we see the poor on the Garbage dumps gather together the "fruits" of throwaway culture and abundance to find something nutritious or something to wear! After becoming part of a human landfill, they are treated as waste without the accomplices of this scandal feeling any guilt. The poor, often viewed as parasites of society, are not even forgiven for their poverty. The condemnation follows them closely. They are not allowed to be shy or depressed, they are perceived as threatening or incompetent just because they are poor.

It is a drama within the drama that they are denied seeing the end of the tunnel of their misery. It has even gotten to the point where one hostile architecture devised and implemented in order to banish them from the street, their last refuge. They wander from one part of the city to another in the hope of a job, shelter or affection ... Every vague opportunity becomes a glimmer of light, but even where it should at least be fair, they are attacked with violent violence . They are forced to work endless hours under the scorching sun as seasonal workers, but they are fobbed off with ridiculous wages; they have no work safety or humane conditions that allow them to feel equal to the others. There is no short-time work benefit fund for them, no allowances and no possibility of getting sick.

With a harsh realism, the psalmist describes the attitude of the rich who plunder the poor: "They lie in wait to catch the poor ... and pull him into their net" (cf. Ps 10.9). It is as if it were a hunt for them, where the poor are hunted, captured and enslaved. In such a situation the hearts of many close and the desire to become invisible overwhelms them. In short, we see large numbers of poor people who are often fobbed off with phrases and reluctantly supported. They become almost invisible and their voice no longer has any strength or weight in society. These men and women seem like foreign bodies between our houses and have become marginal phenomena in our residential areas.

3. The context that the Psalm describes has a sad tinge due to the injustice, suffering and bitterness experienced by the poor. Nevertheless, the Psalm beautifully describes the poor as one who “trusts in the Lord” (cf. Ps 9:11) because he is sure that he will never leave. For the Holy Scriptures, the poor are people who trust! The holy author also gives the reason for this trust: He “knows his Lord” (cf. ibid.), and in the language of the Bible this "knowing" means a personal relationship in affection and love.

We are facing a really impressive description that we would never expect. Yet it is only an expression of God's greatness to a poor person. His creative power exceeds all human expectations and becomes concrete in the “memory” he has of this specific person (cf. v. 13). It is precisely this trust in the Lord, this certainty that we will not be abandoned, that points to hope. The poor know that God cannot forsake him; therefore he always lives in the presence of that God who remembers him. His help goes beyond the current state of suffering to outline a path of liberation that transforms the heart because it supports it in its innermost being.

4. The description of God's action in favor of the poor recurs in Scripture. He is the one who “listens”, “intervenes”, “protects”, “defends”, “ransom”, “saves” ... In short, a poor person will not experience that God remains indifferent or mute towards his prayer . God is the one who does justice and does not forget (cf. Ps 40.18; 70.6); no, he is a refuge for the poor and he does not fail to come to his aid (cf. Ps 10,14).

You can build many walls and barricade the entrances in order to deceptively feel safe in your own wealth to the detriment of those you leave outside. It won't be like this forever. According to the description of the prophets (cf. At the 5,18; Isa 2-5; Eq. 1-3), destroy the barriers erected between the countries and replace the arrogance of the few with the solidarity of many. The state of marginalization, in which millions of people are harassed, cannot last long. Their cry grows louder and encompasses the whole earth. As Don Primo Mazzolari wrote: “The poor are an ongoing protest against our injustices, the poor are a powder keg. If you set it on fire, the world will blow up «.

5. It is never possible to evade the urgent admonition that scriptures entrust to the poor. Everywhere you look, the word of God indicates that the poor are the ones who lack essentials because they are dependent on others. They are the oppressed, the humble, the ones on the ground. But in the face of this innumerable number of poor people, Jesus was not afraid to identify with any of them: "What you did for one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me"Mt 25.40). Avoiding this identification means mystifying the gospel and watering down the revelation. The God that Jesus wanted to reveal is a generous Father, merciful, inexhaustible in his goodness and grace, who above all gives hope to those who are disappointed and without a future.

How could we not point out that the Beatitudes with which Jesus introduced the proclamation of the kingdom of God are opened with the following exclamation: "Blessed are you poor" (Lk 6.20)? The point of this paradoxical announcement is that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor precisely because they are able to receive it. How many poor people do we meet every day! It sometimes seems that the passage of time and the achievements of civilizations increase their numbers rather than decrease them. Centuries go by and this Gospel Beatitude seems more and more paradoxical; the poor are getting poorer and that is even more true today. But Jesus, who has begun to build his kingdom and who has put the poor first, wants to tell us exactly that: He it started, entrusted to us, his disciples, the task of continuing it with the responsibility of giving hope to the poor. It is necessary, especially at a time like ours, to revive hope and restore confidence. It is a program that the Christian community cannot underestimate. The credibility of our preaching and Christian witness depends on it.

6. In her closeness to the poor, the Church discovers that she is a people who, scattered over many nations, have a vocation not to make anyone feel alien or excluded because they are all on a common path of salvation includes. The situation of the poor obliges us not to let any distance arise from the body of the Lord who suffers in them. Rather, we are called to touch his flesh to engage in the first person in a service that is authentic evangelization. The social promotion of the poor is not an obligation outside of the preaching of the Gospel; on the contrary, it shows the realism of the Christian faith and its historical validity. The love that fills the faith in Jesus with life forbids his disciples from locking themselves into a suffocating individualism that hides itself in individual areas of spiritual intimacy and has no influence on social life (cf. Apostolic Letter Evangelii Gaudium, 183).

We recently mourned the death of a great apostle of the poor. With his commitment, Jean Vanier opened up new ways of beneficial coexistence with excluded people. God had given him the gift to devote his whole life to his brothers and sisters with severe disabilities, who are often excluded from society. He was a "saint next door". With his enthusiasm he was able to gather around him many young people, men and women who, in their daily endeavors, have given love and restored smiles to many weak and fragile people by offering them a true "ark" of salvation against exclusion and loneliness. His testimony changed the lives of many people and helped the world see the weakest and most fragile people through different eyes. The cry of the poor was heard and gave birth to an unshakable hope by producing visible and tangible signs of concrete love that we can still grasp with our hands today.

7. "The option for the last, for those whom society discards and throws away" (ibid., 195) is a fundamental decision to which the disciples of Christ are called in order not to betray the credibility of the Church and to give so many defenseless people effective hope. In them the Christian love of neighbor finds its confirmation, because those who share in the suffering of others with the love of Christ receive strength and give emphasis to the proclamation of the Gospel.

The commitment of Christians on the occasion of this world day and especially in daily life does not consist only of relief efforts. While these are praiseworthy and necessary, they must be aimed at increasing in each individual the full attention due to each person in need. "This loving care is the beginning of a true worry" (ibid., 199) for the poor, if you want to find out what is really good for them. It is not easy to be a witness of Christian hope in an environment of consumer-oriented, throw-away mentality that is always concerned with enhancing superficial and fleeting well-being. A change of mentality is necessary in order to rediscover the essentials and to give the proclamation of the kingdom of God concrete and effectiveness.

Hope is also conveyed through the consolation that is realized when you not only accompany the poor for a moment full of enthusiasm, but also stand up for them in the long term. True hope does not come to the poor when they see that we are being rewarded for giving them some of our time, but when they see in our sacrifice an act of gratuitous love that awaits no reward.

8. I ask the many volunteers, whose merits are often the first to understand the importance of this attention to the poor, to continue to grow in their commitment. Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you to look for what you really need in every poor person you meet; not to stop at the first material necessity, but to discover the goodness that is hidden in their hearts, paying attention to their culture and way of expression, in order to begin a genuine fraternal dialogue. Let us hide the “drawers” ​​that stem from ideological or political perspectives and let us focus on the essentials, which do not require many words, but a loving look and an outstretched hand. Never forget that "the worst discrimination suffered by the poor is lack of spiritual affection" (ibid., 200).

First and foremost, the poor need God, his love, which is made visible through holy people who live by their side, who in the simplicity of their life express and bring out the power of Christian love. God uses many ways and countless tools to reach people's hearts. Of course, the poor also come to us because we give them food, but what they really need is beyond the hot meal or sandwich that we offer them. The poor need our hands to lift them up, our hearts to feel the warmth of affection anew, and our presence to overcome loneliness. You need love, very simple.

9. Sometimes little is enough to give hope back: all you have to do is stop, smile, and listen. Let's leave the statistics aside for a day; the poor are not numbers to be invoked to boast about one's works and projects. The poor are people to meet: they are young and old who are alone and who are invited home to eat with them; Men, women and children waiting for a kind word. The poor save us because they enable us to meet the face of Jesus Christ.

In the eyes of the world it seems unreasonable to think that poverty and need can have salvific powers; Nevertheless, what the apostle teaches when he says: “There are not many wise in the earthly sense, not many mighty, not many noble, but the foolish in the world God chose to shame the wise, and the weak God chose in the world to shame the strong.And God chose what is low in the world and what is despised: that which is nothing in order to destroy that which is something, so that no one can boast before God ”(1Cor 1.26-29). With human One cannot see this saving power with eyes, but with the eyes of faith one sees it at work and experiences it personally. This saving power pulsates in the heart of the people of God who are on the way, which does not exclude anyone and which includes everyone in a real pilgrimage of conversion to recognize the poor and to love them.

10. The Lord does not forsake those who seek and call on him; "He has not forgotten the cry of distress of the poor" (Ps 9:13) because his ears pay attention to their voices. The hope of the poor calls into question the various situations of death, knowing that he is especially loved by God, and so he overcomes suffering and marginalization. His poverty does not rob him of the dignity he received from the Creator; He lives in the certainty that it will be completely given back to him by God himself, because God is not indifferent to the fate of his weakest children, on the contrary, he sees their grief and pain, takes them into his hands and gives them strength and courage (see. Ps 10.14). The hope of the poor is strengthened by the certainty of having been accepted by the Lord, of finding true righteousness in him, of being strengthened in the heart to continue to love (cf. Ps 10,17).

In order for the Lord's disciples to be credible evangelizers, it is necessary that they sow concrete signs of hope. I ask all Christian communities and all who feel the need to bring hope and consolation to the poor to work for this World day strengthens the desire for active help in many so that no one is lacking in closeness and solidarity. May the word of the prophet accompany us, who heralds a different future: "But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise and its wings will bring healing" (Times 3,20).

From the Vatican on June 13, 2019
the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua